Porta = there was originally a postern, a small kind of gate to the city, in this location
Lodovica = Ludovico Sforza commissioned the building of the gate
If you’re trying to get to the Bocconi campus from any other part of the city, you basically have two options: you can either walk from a subway stop (it takes about 15-20 minutes), or you can take a tram. If you do the latter, you should probably get off at the Porta Lodovica stop. If you know a little bit of Italian, the name of this stop might make you wonder, “Why porta?” There’s no gate or door in the area. And other areas with the word porta in Milano have existing gates. Lodovica, however, is only an intersection where the gate once existed, and no traces are left.
About gates in Milano
Some readers may be aware that during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance Milano was surrounded by walls, with gates, posterns and ramparts to keep people and vehicles outside and only let them in at specific, guarded points.
At that time, gates were the main entrances. They were placed at the main roads and they usually had arches. Posterns, however, were smaller and were placed on secondary roads, usually in-between gates.
There have been various walls throughout the history of Milano, giving the city various shapes, with locations and names of gates and posterns changing as well.
Why Porta Lodovica?
Commissioned in 1486 by Ludovico Sforza Duke of Milano, Porta Lodovica seems to have been one of the most well-constructed posterns, built with re-used marble from ancient Roman buildings. The Duke’s coat of arms was placed on the postern (see picture), along with monograms of his own name and his wife’s, Beatrice d’Este.
The small gate was originally created for access to Corso San Celso (the street that is now called Corso Italia), probably to help visitors to the San Celso Church inside the city (along with 2 other churches further down the road towards the city center).
Why did the gate disappear?
In the late 19th century, when new districts developed in the periphery of Milano, several gates and parts of the city walls were demolished to make traffic easier. Following this trend, Porta Lodovica was destroyed in 1905. The gate was dismantled and parts of it were to taken the Archaeological Museum.
And that’s why today Porta Lodovica refers to the neighborhood around the Bocconi campus, even if the gate itself no longer exists.
For a complete history of Porta Lodovica in Italian, check out this great blog, Vecchia Milano.